Me and Me

Monday night after a pretty good day.  Carol laughed more than usual, sometimes at something she heard, sometimes at something humorous in her head.  Ryan joined us for a pizza supper, and he noticed the increase in her good humor.  And she ate three slices.

Got some positive responses to my second column for the Record Eagle, one in which within my 550 -600 word limit I attempted to deal with the mystery of the inaccessible thoughts that Carol clearly contemplates in silence, a kind of daydreaming although far more focused than that from the look on her face.

The responses to my column, and the fact I have undertaken the responsibility of a regular gig writing for the local newspaper leads me into what I have been thinking about which, for want of a better word, I will term the schizophrenia of my life now that Carol has seemingly settled into a stable period, and my caregiving routines are well established so that each day is pretty much laid out for me in terms of what I have to do and what space is available for things I might want to do.

Prominent in the latter category is my life as a writer.

I have always found time to write, no matter what else was going on in my life, what other responsibilities demanded my attention, or bright shiny object lured me away.   Maybe that is why I almost always write late at night when the house is quiet and all chores have been attended to, and distractions would have to be sought.

Or maybe it is just a matter of my natural biorhythm favoring that time frame right before sleep.  In any case,  from day to day I must be writing on something,

So that is the schizophrenia I am talking about.  Of course, I am using the term metaphorically to suggest that I am, in a certain sense, two people.

I am Carol’s caregiver having assumed those responsibilities thrust upon me by Carol’s disease, a burden I quite willingly have undertaken in spite of the demands, emotional and physical, that it places upon me.

And the other me insists on reasserting itself by retaining the interests and activities that have always been constants in my life.

Pausing now having set up this dichotomy to let these thoughts percolate for a while before attempting to flesh them out.

Tuesday night.  Sat on the edge of Carol’s bed holding her hands with my left hand while with my right I stroked the head of the dog who had come by for her share of my attention.  Now both are asleep.

That Currier and Ives domestic scene, husband, wife, dog at bedtime, of course, belies the complexity of our situation  But it is a moment of calm if not serenity, and a good way to end the day.

So I will leave it there for now.

Wednesday night after a Halloween day during which, predictably, no trick or treaters came to the door.  We are too far out of town and there are simply no kids around here, hardly anybody much under sixty.  Just in case, I had bought a bag of small Three Musketeers, which I have begun to share with Carol.

I’ve been exploring the idea of the two of me, the one who takes care of Carol, and also runs the household, something we used to share, and the other me with my carry over interests and aspirations.  Among the latter is my writing career, which I have been at for about half a century, and am not about to give it up now.

As for the first, as Carol’s caregiver, after two years I have become pretty well used to it, and for the most part it is now routine.  For her part, she seems to have settled into our routine as I have.  Most activities go smoothly.  She still, as she did earlier this evening, call my name, and I assured her, as I always do, that I was right there.  I continue not to know for a certainty whether she equates my physical presence with my name.

But my name, and associated memories are stored in her brain, and provides me some comfort, small as it is.

I suppose there is a next step when it might well become clear that I have in all ways left her memory and at best I will be no more than a figure like anybody else who attends to her needs.

I can’t say that I am prepared for the transition to that stage.

As for the carry over Steve, I still read books that interest me, having just finished a slow read of the new biography of Washington Roebling, the engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge, and will perhaps tonight for a few minutes crack open the next book on my list, Elaine Pagels’ study of how Satan evolved from his brief and sometimes not terribly significant appearances in the Old Testament, primarily in the Job story, to his central role in Christianity, including becoming identified with the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

I continue to subscribe to my usual magazines, read the New York Times online, do my word puzzles, and follow my sports teams.

Most importantly, I continue to write and importantly keep my writer self visible. My new gig as a columnist for the local newspaper  gives me an opportunity for regular publication, which most, if not all, writers not only savor but need.  Without publication, most give up writing.  Others continue, driven perhaps by something like I sense is inside of me, persisting without an audience.    I can’t say what that something is, perhaps some ego in believing you have something to say, or maybe just the satisfaction of exercising your skill in your craft, as we all enjoy doing what we do well.  But whatever it is, publication feeds it.

I  think of poor Herman Melville, years after the publication of his Moby Dick marked the end of his viability as a published writer, still at his desk, pen in hand, filling the pages of the manuscript that became his wonderful novella Billy Budd  to be published posthumously thirty-three years later during what became a revival of interest in one of the greatest American fiction writer of his century.

I am not interested in such posthumous fame.  And I’ll certainly settle for considerably less fame.  A little recognition during while I am still breathing will do.

So I still market some of my finished work and I am rewarded every once in a while, as recently I was, with an acceptance, this time of a short story.  I have two excellent but as yet unpublished novels waiting for their turn in the  spotlight.

I do not think I will have the time or energy for new fiction, at least not in the foreseeable fiction, and that is too bad.

What is worse about all of this, is that I can no longer share any of it with Carol.

I have to accept that fact.  Our relationship wasn’t built on our mutual passion for writing.  Let’s just say it was  enhanced by it.

And the solitary version is not nearly as satisfying.

The two of me occupy somewhat uncomfortably the same time and space.  At some point one of those two identities will disappear leaving only its memory like tracks in a frozen path that suddenly stops.

 

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4 Responses to Me and Me

  1. trudy j carpenter says:

    Steve, it sounds to me as though you have stabilized your own life in the midst of an unstable situation. And I’m grateful that you find such solace in writing and that you continue to be published.

  2. Kathleen flores says:

    Hey, you have caught the attention of a non reader! I look forward to this every saturday. Of course , I enjoy updates on carol. I wish you both the best as can be. She is so lucky to have such a loving husband. See you next saturday☺

  3. Lowell Kleiman says:

    Just finished Alfred Kazin’s “A Walker in the City,” a peon to Brooklyn and environs that I have been putting off for 60 years. Why? A great read. A modest proposal — we have you, like Kazin relating his impressions of life in immigrant (largely Jewish) Brownsville in the ’30’s and early ’40’s, taking liberties in conveying what others may have thought and felt. Carol today is an enigma yet your writing and imagination is rich. You know her better than anyone. What does she really feel or think (or might be feeling and thinking) behind the façade of dementia? Can you tell us?

  4. Wendy Warren says:

    Thanks for these posts. I identify so clearly with them. And Three Musketeers are my favorite!

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